Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Women and the Movie Business

A fabulous round-up of 2008 news about women in the movie business at Women and Hollywood, one of my newest favorite blogs. Excerpt:

Women are a market…but we need to be vigilant
We proved it with three of the top 15 grossers of the year: Sex & the City ($152 million domestic), Mamma Mia ($143 million domestic) and Twilight ($168 million domestic and still going). My hope for 2009 is that we keep making movies for women (including those of us over 25) and not freak out if they don’t have a stupendous opening weekend. Look at Mamma Mia. Didn’t open that big but had legs.

But, my worry is that there is not enough product in the pipeline and that if we don’t keep building on the momentum we will regress back to the age old perception that successful women’s film are just flukes. I would be so happy to never hear again: “that was just a fluke.” It’s just a cop out.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Stuff I liked

Cat-shaped earrings, courtesy of Elms in the Yard.

Kelley Eskridge shares a photo of the Tower of David, in Jerusalem, with images of books projected onto it.

Nicola Griffith writes about an antikythera (which is just a cool word, anyway), an ancient computer built by Archimedes.

We're just an expression

Gene Expression reports a study finding that facial expressions of emotions are innate, not learned. (pdf)

The study of the spontaneous expressions of blind individuals offers a unique opportunity to understand basic processes concerning the emergence and source of facial expressions of emotion. In this study, the authors compared the expressions of congenitally and noncongenitally blind athletes in the 2004 Paralympic Games with each other and with those produced by sighted athletes in the 2004 Olympic Games. The authors also examined how expressions change from 1 context to another. There were no differences between congenitally blind, noncongenitally blind, and sighted athletes, either on the level of individual facial actions or in facial emotion configurations. Blind athletes did produce more overall facial activity, but these were isolated to head and eye movements. The blind athletes' expressions differentiated whether they had won or lost a medal match at 3 different points in time, and there were no cultural differences in expression. These findings provide compelling evidence that the production of spontaneous facial expressions of emotion is not dependent on observational learning but simultaneously demonstrates a learned component to the social management of expressions, even among blind individuals.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Identity and expression

I've been pondering identity and expression over the last year. Here are some notes I jotted down this morning.

Identity-does it exist without expression? How can you tell who you are without expressing it?

I repress expression of my identity when I am objectified. Objectifying others is a human thing, we all do it. Objectifying happens when broadcast is mistaken for aimed, when expression is mistaken for communication.

Art is expression. Is all expression communication? Communication of what?

I don't live in a forest; how can I ever go unheard? When I do something just for myself, as an expression of my feelings, to literally act out what I am thinking and feeling, does that have to be received as aimed communication merely because I broadcast it and there are individuals who have the ability to receive it?

I often choose to repress myself because people frequently react as if I intended a specific communication to them when I was just being myself in the world. I don't like that particularization of my interaction with the universe, but the only control I have over it is to repress my expressions. An unintended consequence of that repression is losing my sense of identity, losing track of who I am.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Word for the year 2009

In 2008 my word was Discover. What I discovered was largely unpleasant, although self-knowledge is always valuable: I discovered that I could hold onto most of my life even through an injury that resulted in temporary disability. I'm not yet fully healed, and it's easy to re-injure myself when I try to do more than I'm currently capable of.

I've had a word rolling around in my dreams and my waking thoughts, so I'm picking it for 2009. The word is strength. I am a strong person in many ways, and it's time to incorporate that into the identity I hold for myself instead of thinking of myself as weak.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

40-year weather

We've had snow.

Yeah, I know you think we're wimps. But most people live here *because* we don't have either extreme: we don't get humidity with heat, and we don't get snow. Maybe some sprinkles of flakes that are gone by the next morning, but not 3 to 8 inches of snow onto frozen ground, followed by freezing rain, followed by another 3 to 8 inches of snow, all within a week. No time to dig out in between. Most people don't have chains or snow shovels; some people don't even have boots and warm coats. We just don't need them!

Until this happens.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The double-whammy

I'm an introvert.

I haven't always known this about myself, and for an introvert I have a pretty high social desire (that is, I like a lot more social time with people I know than your average introvert), but if you think about the introvert/extrovert dichotomy as a measure of how you gain and spend energy, I'm definitely an introvert. Introverts spend energy to be social and recharge when they're alone; extroverts get charged up by spending time with others and use it up if they're alone.

I've learned through years of observation and practice that I'm good for about 90 minutes of socializing in groups of more than four people, especially if those groups are more than a quarter new people (new to me, that is). Just me and a friend or two, I can go for hours, but I need to take a break after an hour and a half, two hours tops (and that last half hour I won't be at my best) in larger groups. I'm having fun the whole time, but I'll crash suddenly: exhaustion, crankiness, self-doubt. Time to go home, in other words. Best to time the homegoing to *before* I crash: it's hard to go home while I'm still having fun, but if I wait until the fun stops, that can color my memory of the entire time.

This morning I suddenly realized this is why family gatherings were so hard on me when I was a child: they went on for hours. Thanksgiving in my family started at 10:00 am. We'd all gather at the home of my nana or whichever aunt was holding it, or my home if Mom was in charge that year and spend the day together: chatting and playing cards or basketball, working on the food and setting the table, snacking through the day from the table of hors d'ouvres that would be refreshed or replaced with new dishes in waves during the day. Formal dinner at 3:30 or 4 pm in the fancy clothes we'd been wearing all day (hard to play in taffeta ruffles, white tights, and black patent Mary Janes), clean up, more chat, dessert around the fireplace. After a long evening extending the holiday, get home so late it was straight to bed for everybody.

It was torture.

All those hours of making conversation with my relatives exhausted me. Sitting alone in a corner reading? Not allowed: come help in the kitchen, talk to an uncle, or play a game with a cousin. Going for a walk alone to recharge? No way. It's no wonder I used to melt down completely, burst into tears and run from the room. Now I know how to take care of myself, but then I didn't know and it wouldn't have been permitted anyway.

Snow day

Everyone in the house but me is still asleep. The furnace is on, keeping the house at a comfortable 68 degrees F.

I have been outside for the first time since Thursday, to sweep the front steps. I had middling success: the porch and top 4 steps are at least half cleared, with the snow-ice-snow sandwich brushed off of one side (only crumbs remaining) and the other side at least some broomed. The bottom few steps I can't get through yet, the crust is thicker and the snow is heavier.

I stepped down onto the driveway and sunk to my knee before hitting ground-in fact I bounced back up on the other foot before hitting ground, giggling because that was too deep!

It's the first day of Hannukah, so we lit candles last night, sang holiday songs, and I gave gifts to Twoson and my husband.

It's snowing still.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pearls for the Girls

At Astronomy Picture of the Day, a beautiful picture of the positions of the sun through the year forming the analemma. It looks like a string of pearls decorating the sky, which makes the foreground shot of the caryatids at the Temple of the Maidens appropriate.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Evil Jews!

An application to join the Evil League of Evil, in the tone of Dr. Horrible.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Expanding on a concept

While searching for a cite to a great Hanukkah story I found that it had been linked to a metaquotes community. In that thread the following humorous ideas showed up:

Christianity is a fanfic of Judaism. 'AU whatif The prophet appears and no one likes him and teh romans kill him??/ Postseries,OC, may have death scenes PLZREVIEW!" (per the kiwi who flew)

Christianity is the cheap Sims expansion pack of Judaism. (also the kiwi who flew)

Christianity is open source Judaism. (dogz)

I larfed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What you see is what you get

Jay Lake writes about a disturbing incident in his work place:

Late last week I won a major quality award at work. This happened while I was on vacation in San Francisco, and it’s a pretty big deal. One of my co-workers apparently disagreed with my fitness for the award, because this past Monday during the executive staff meeting, somebody slipped into the business unit SVP’s office (our CEO, basically) and left a folded copy of my vasectomy post [ | LiveJournal ] on his chair. My co-worker very helpfully highlighted my blog address (which is my name) in green marker at the top and bottom of each page, in case he missed the point. The printout was unsigned, the leaving in the big boss’s office done in secret.

It turned out pretty well. Jay works for honorable people. He goes on to say:

As for everyone else who reads this blog, and the rest of my work, know this: I do not compromise. You get the real, raw, honest me. I can do no more, and I owe every one of you no less.

You don't get the real me here. You get a carefully crafted incomplete persona. I don't share everything, and it's by no means raw--I try to edit my writing and I'm not even a professional writer. I try to preserve some anonymity for people I write about who haven't given permission--for example, I call my children Oneson and Twoson, and surprise! those aren't the names on their birth certificates. I can't even claim honesty, because I leave things out, and I believe that you can be dishonest by only telling part of the truth. But maybe I'm putting too fine a point on it.

What you get here is part of the real me, not something I'm making up as I go; the posts are genuine expressions of real reactions I'm having, and when I share something with you, all the parts that appear on this blog are real and true as far as I can determine.

I'm not in control of how you read it, though. You might be hearing my voices in a tone completely unrelated to the one I'm typing this in. You might be perceiving me through a filter that is inaccurate, because I seem kinda like Cousin Joe or Aunt Louise so maybe I'm like them in other ways...except I'm not, which you'd realize if you had more information about or experience of me.

So what you see is what you get. I put considerable effort into showing you some of the things I think about, and that's all. Take from it what you will, that part is your responsibility.

A parent tells it like it is

In the 12 Rude Days of Christmas Silflay Hraka (and offspring) tell a story of a family Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Achieving your goal

One of my most important goals is to be happy; a friend told me recently that I work very hard at it, and I often succeed. It's not my only goal, and so it's not the only measure I use to evaluate my choices, but it's heavily weighted in my analyses.

Making your goals explicit at the minimum to yourself, if not to others, is important, because if you don't know exactly what your goal is, you don't have a hope of evaluating your decision points so you move toward that goal. In Meditations on Violence Rory Miller writes about a hard-to-define goal some martial artists have, and analyzes how well martial arts works to achieve various definitions of spiritual growth:

If it is a depth of understanding of the human condition, you will grow more by living and serving and talking to people than you will ever learn in a class of any kind. If it is understanding of yourself, you will learn the most by challenging your fears and dislikes, and few people stick with a class that they fear and dislike. If it is a happy feeling that all is right with the world and there is a plan and everything is wonderful and can get it from heroin cheaper and faster. If it is something great and magical that will open up your psychic powers, keep playing video games.

It's easy to rationalize our reasons for something we want to do; human beings are pretty good at coming up with believable, admirable justifications to explain doing something when the real reason doesn't accord with their public persona. Maybe you want to beat people up and a martial arts class lets you do that twice a week; maybe you want to imagine yourself as popularly desired and a dance class lets you fantasize that you are. But you can easily choose the wrong method/venue/approach if you are being dishonest with yourself about your goal: having a baby won't make you feel loved, having an affair won't make your spouse desire you again, and changing your hairstyle and makeup won't make you happy if you just lost your job.

Know your goal and match your pursuit of it to achieving it.

Not jaded enough

Yesterday on BoingBoing Clay Shirkey writes:

It takes a truly jaded mind to understand that people who disagree with you have to be engaged, not just emoted at.

Tru dat. Those of us on different sides of a political or philosophical question (and there are usually more than just two sides) can trade emotional outbursts till the cows come home without making a difference to anything but our blood pressures (and our opinions of each other). You can't shout or shame me out of my opinion and I can't ridicule you out of yours.

But you might have information that would change my decision, or I might have a perspective you haven't considered, and if we can each avoid shutting the other person down with defensiveness we might manage to communicate the genuinely substantive differences between us. It's worth the effort.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bringing freedom, even temporarily

Politics, fair warning:

RJ Lippincott makes a point about President Bush's visit to Iraq. Apparently a protester threw two shoes at him.

Today in Iraq an individual stood up and committed a dramatic act of protest.

The protester is still alive. He was not killed, he was not tortured, he was not imprisoned, and as I write these words he is a free man.

Odds are pretty good that at the moment he was taking off his shoes, the protester knew for certain that when all was said and done, he would neither be killed, nor tortured, nor imprisoned.

This is the measure of our success in Iraq. That someone felt free to speak out against the leader of a powerful nation without fear of immediate (and possibly final) retribution. The Iraqis are still working the bugs out, and probably will be for years to come. They'll ask us to leave soon, and maybe have some setbacks. But even if only for a short while, they got to practice freedom instead of keeping your head down, instead of going along to get along, instead of fearing to take initiative because if the big boss didn't like what you did, you'd be killed (and possibly all your family along with you). Instead of waiting for orders or to be told what to think, somebody thought for himself and acted on it.

This will be President Bush's legacy. And it's a good legacy.

Planning for the weather

When I woke up this morning, it was 40 degrees F and raining. Two hours later it had dropped to 31 and snow was falling. The driveway is covered in ice; likely there's a layer of ice under the snow everywear, because it's been raining for a couple of days. Planning for the weather would have been a good idea.

I didn't do it a very good job of it, though. Last week I intentionally bought only a little food, planning to run out some pantry stuff that was nearing the end of its useful life. I usually shop on Sundays. I did run out yesterday afternoon and pick up a gallon of milk, a dozen and a half eggs, and a 2-lb block of cheese, along with a couple of packets of hot dogs and buns; we still have some pantry stuff, including a variety of dried beans and a sack of potatoes I ended up not needing for Thanksgiving.

I'm soaking some black-eyed peas to cook tomorrow, and have a pot of lentil-vegetable soup on the stove now. For dinner I'll make scalloped potatoes--I found this terrific, easy recipe in the Joy of Cooking. You make 2 cups of white sauce, peel and slice the potatoes, and layer the two in a buttered baking dish. Bake at 350 F for an hour. Last time I layered some cheddar in there, too, and it was scrumptious.

Within a couple of days travel should become easy, but it takes that long to get the roads plowed and sanded. The city only has 55 snow plows/sanding trucks, because after all, we don't get snow every year even, and it would be a waste of resources to buy and maintain the numbers it would take to deal with the occasional storm overnight. I'm hoping my office will close tomorrow, although if need be I'll trudge out to the bus stop in my ski pants and boots, with two layers of wool socks and so forth to keep warm.

The forecast for the rest of the week doesn't really improve. Although we may have less additional snow, it's just going to get colder: Friday is predicted to have a high of 25 F and a low of 20 F, nor is it supposed to get above freezing before then. Just as well, because once the roads are sanded travel will mostly resume and keeping it cold means no layer of ice on top of the snow.

For now, it's nice to sit in the living room with a fire in the woodstove and a cup of hot tea, and watch the snow fall.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Teaching and learning

I am a teacher: I have raised children which is mainly teaching them how to be a human being by teaching them all the behaviors (including speech) we expect from fellow human beings.

I learn from many people, including Guru's Handbook, Chiron, and too many others to list. They're not all intentionally teaching, but I can learn nonetheless.

Not all students learn what the teacher thinks he's teaching.

Talking about yourself isn't teaching, it's establishing your authority to teach. How much of that do you need to do? Depends on the student; I was completely turned off by the pages and pages of appeal to authority at the beginning of Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear (which I strongly recommend), because I already believed he had knowledge I wanted and I wished he would just get to it. But many students need proof of mastery from a teacher before they'll engage with the material enough to learn.

We are each role models whether we like it or not, there's no consent involved here. Students *will* learn from what you do whether it's to hermit yourself away from community or open a school, whether you're a role model for useful behavior or for destructive behavior. Your agency has scope in the field of the nature of what you will teach, what lessons are available from you.

Be conscious.

Friday, December 05, 2008

ZOMG the funniest

The funniest thing I have read this week and maybe even so far this year: the lovely and talented cleolinda's summary of the vampire-teen-romance series Twilight in 15 minutes! I haven't even read the books or seen the movie but she is the epitome of vampire fan hilariousness!

Forrey Ackerman

One of the grand people of science fiction has died. Forrest J. Ackerman passed away yesterday of heart failure. He'd been ill for quite a while. He was famous as a member of science fiction fandom and had a museum-quality collection of related artifacts.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Continuing the fitness conversation

Steve Perry writes what I assume is partly a response to my post on the costs of diet and exercise. He doesn't think it's useful to consider those costs:

Sometimes when I venture into Bloglandia, I come across postings on the fit-or-fat question. Of late, I have been finding some relatively strident comments from people I have dubbed the DOO, i.e., the Defenders of Obesity. I think I understand where these folks are coming from, and I can sympathize, but I would be remiss if I didn't offer that I believe their advocacy of such attitudes does more harm than good.

He thinks it's okay to give up if you've struggled all your life without success, but not to admit it or explain your reasons.

It is their choice, and I don't blame them for it. One measures, one weighs the benefits versus cost, and one elects an option. No problem.

Where I run into trouble is with the notion that the grapes of fitness are sour anyway, and rationalizing it thus allows them to feel better about themselves.

Over there I responded roughly like this:

There's a lot of rationalizing going on from the fitness warriors, too. Injuries? You've got 'em. There's the time commitment: studies say about an hour of vigorous exercise a day to maintain a current level of fitness, so it would take more to get there. And constant exercise with prudent diet doesn't guarantee perfect results, see, e.g., Jim Fixx. You can still be stricken with cancer or have a genetic predisposition to disease. Or just get hit by a car.

As for strident, there's no one-true-wayist like the diet and exercise kinds. The moral superiority, the self-righteousness, the insistence on telling other people their choices are wrong--it's all there in all caps. They can handwave their judgmentalism away by saying "if you're happy with your body or your life, I'm not talking about you" but it comes through loud and clear that they don't believe anybody is really in that category--it's just denial combined with rationalization. Note I'm not referring to you here, Steve--I don't think you're a one-true-wayist although you are a strong advocate.

And you can't tell fitness by looking, unless your Humpty-Dumpty-like definition of fitness is to be skinny. Skinny people might have high blood pressure and cholesterol, might have asthma, might not be able to run a mile--fat people can be fit in those categories and others without losing the weight.

Boom De Ya Da

I vaguely remember seeing the eponymous Discovery Channel commercial some time ago and being delighted by it, enough to back up the TiVO and watch it again. Then xkcd did a version which delighted me also.

I went looking for the commercial today and found that youtube actually had a contest and listed the submissions. There are versions with different lyrics (e.g., Canada and the EU) and different images (e.g., every online gaming system or MMPORG you can think of). My favorite is a punk-rock version of the music, with lyrics and visuals according to the xkcd strip, but a close second has to be the Dr. Who version (with bonus Captain Jack appearances)!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Speeling flames

I was just gently flaming a spelling error else-Net, and checked Google to avoid that embarrassing but canonical humiliation of making a spelling mistake in my correction. Google automagically returns only entries for the correct spelling! It doesn't even provide that sometimes-amusing "Did you mean xxxx?", it just appends a list of links with the correct spelling. Apparently there is no Noel Streatfield known to Google, only the properly-spelled Noel Streatfeild who is the author of the Shoe books.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Mary Sue discovers fanfic

What's that you say? Mary Sue doesn't need to discover fanfic, she's floating in it?

Lorem Ipsum, a homeschooling blog, discovers fanfic through misunderstanding an accusation of Mary Sue. No, it's not a Prissy, nonsexual, goodie-two-shoes heroine who is a perfect exemplar of 1950’s-era femininity.

This is a wonderful explanation of fanfic and Mary Sue characters, told with wit and humor. I like to see my tribe through other people's perceptions, and this is an excellent example of it.

Monday, December 01, 2008

I don't want to be that person.

So many of the choices I make about living my life are partly to mostly motivated by the sense that I don't want to be that person. Une femme d'un certain age explains why she won't diet:

If I could harness all of the wasted energy I've spent dieting/regaining/agonizing about my weight over most of my five decades of life, it could probably light up Times Square for a year. A few days ago, Duchesse linked to an article from Harpers in 1993, The Weight That Women Carry. In it, the author, Sallie Tisdale says "What I liked in myself seemed to shrivel and disappear when I dieted." That one sentence sums up why I'll never darken the door of Weight Watchers again, or sign up for the "Lifestyle Change*" du jour. Ultimately, I don't like the person I'd have to be to look how I'd like to look. (That person is obsessive, self-involved, self-righteous, anxious.) (links omitted)

I've noted similar problems with people who are obsessed with physical fitness (not just diet, but exercise too) as the path to a good life. There's a degree of one-true-way-ism to most of them (this worked for me, so it must be the way for you) and the self-righteousness that says "I did it, so if you don't, you're not trying hard enough." Neither recognizes the differences among people's capacities and choice fields; neither recognizes the limits on what we can affect through our choices. (While we always have a choice, it isn't always a useful choice, one that affects the outcome; the possibilities don't always include a good option, a choice that makes things better.)

Means and ends both matter.

A problem I could handle with grace and dignity.

The governor of Oregon has submitted his proposed budget for the next two years. I remember a week or so ago reading an article about his lamentations that he had to make cuts.

Turns out the only cuts he had to make were to his fantasies, because this budget is for $1 BILLion more than the budget of the last two years. Apparently in Fantasy Land he would have $2 billion more to spend, so he feels like his money was *cut* by $1 billion instead of raised by it. The economy blew up and he still gets to spend a billion more than he did last time! Not like he earned it--it's all coming from people like me, people who work and pay taxes.

I only wish my budget for the next two years was going up by a billion dollars. I'd jump on that grenade!